Ready to Leave Your Own Personal Waiting Room? Let’s Go

Chairs in waiting roomPicture a waiting room.

What image springs to mind?

How do the words “waiting room” make you feel?

If you think about where people typically identify feeling anxious or worried, waiting rooms tend to be up there on the list: hospital waiting rooms, waiting for word; dentist waiting rooms, anticipating pain; business waiting rooms, before a nerve-racking sales pitch or job interview; and green rooms before a performance, among other types of waiting rooms.

What if we create our own personal waiting rooms? What if we got up and walked out of them?

Wherever there’s a screen with a chair or couch parked in front of it, I see a waiting room. And nothing drains energy like waiting. Don’t get me wrong—some screening-it-up distraction can be a good thing, like a piece of dark chocolate. Everything in moderation. But when distraction turns into avoidance, it’s typically neither relaxing nor fun. It can feel draining, depressing, and anxiety-ridden.

As I listen to people talk about what they would like out of life, usually it’s nothing too wild or grandiose; often, it’s very doable stuff. But, as with many of us, when the work day ends they huddle away from the world, exhausted. Another day gone, but they continue to think about a whole list of things they would like to do but aren’t doing … or can’t, but will … maybe … tomorrow. Today they’re just too tired to go for a run, to go out with friends, to look for a different job. They’ll just avoid for now. And wait.

Taking a chance, trying something new, or doing something that might feel awkward is risky. Anxiety and worry don’t like risk.

Anxiety keeps many people on the couch, in their own private waiting room. Sometimes I picture anxiety as an all-controlling overlord who is only happy when people are sitting on the couch doing nothing. (OK, maybe they can watch television, but only if they feel bad about it.) But really, the anxiety overlord and anxiety’s sidekick, worry, are just doing their job, trying to keep you safe. Generally speaking, sitting on a couch watching TV is pretty safe. Taking a chance, trying something new, or doing something that might feel awkward is risky. Anxiety and worry don’t like risk.

As you read this, there are countless bright, creative individuals sitting on couches, afraid to move forward toward something new, something they may not be automatically good at. The minute such people attempt to leave the couch, worry kicks in with the “I-can’ts” and the “what-ifs.”

After a couple of what-ifs float through a person’s mind, the task of moving forward seems nearly impossible—but, really, it’s OK. Sometimes feeling anxious and worried is a good thing. It means you ARE moving forward. Recognizing your anxiety and worry for what they are—feelings—allows you to choose whether to listen, whether to act, whether to leave the waiting room.

Three tips to get you out of your waiting room:

1. Plan Ahead

Pick a date to start moving forward toward a reasonable goal. If you are just starting to run, plan to work toward a couple of laps or maybe a 5K, not a marathon. If you’re hoping to write the next great American novel, plan to work toward the first 10 pages. If you’re planning to look for a new job, put together a résumé. Small, reasonable steps will help keep you motivated and feeling accomplished.

2. Walk Away from the Couch

Just get up and walk away. Don’t look back. Expect to feel uncomfortable. Expect swirling, negative thoughts that this will “never” work. Plan on hearing the tired, sabotaging song of “I’m too tired and there’s plenty of time to be vertical in the future.” Anticipate that it will feel awkward trying something different. It’s all good.

3. Challenge Your Doubts

If the what-ifs start flying and the excuses begin piling up, reality-test to assess the situation and counteract negative thoughts. “Of course I feel like an idiot and think it’s not going to work—it’s something new! That’s just how my mind rolls.” Or, “Yes, I’m tired—but I’ll be tired tomorrow, too.” Try putting “I’m having the thought that …” in front of the self-doubting message. After all, it’s just a thought, not a fact. For every negative what-if, counter with a positive. For example, challenge the thought, “What if I never get off the couch?” with, “But what if you do?”

Life awaits. It’s right outside your waiting room.

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  • Lindell

    Lindell

    June 4th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    I liken those feelings to having a car in neutral or a gerbil spinning on a wheel. No matter how hard you press the gas, if you are not ready to really be in motion then you will simply be there with the motor running but never making any true forward progress.

  • Parker

    Parker

    June 5th, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    Just like with any other waiting room that we get boxed into, the ones that we keep ourselves locked up in on the inside can be just as constraining and frustrating. You feel like in some ways you will be so irresponsible if you got up and walked away when really you will be taking a step toward freedom if you do.

  • Kris

    Kris

    June 6th, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    i love the idea of setting some markers and goals for yourself. You are right in that you would not run a marathon without first training for a 5k. These are things that take time and progression, sometimes with one step forward and two steps back. Knowing that this is ok and that it is all part of the overall game plan can be a very reassuring thing for many of us.

  • laurel

    laurel

    June 8th, 2015 at 8:13 AM

    That first step out? That’s the hardest one to take.

  • frannie

    frannie

    June 9th, 2015 at 1:20 PM

    Life is about so much more than just being in a pattern of waiting. I want to get out of that cycle of waiting around for something to happen and get to the point where I am strong enough to make something happen for me.

    Now that’s what I would call taking control of your own life.

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